From Bizarre to Sublime
June 16, 2009
Why do strange things look the way they do? These I call bizarre. Then what is sublime? That is bit harder for me to answer but I will try using the above building Sagrada Familia as an example.
At first glance, the soaring conical pinnacles and bizarre facade seem purely sculptural, more organic interpretation of the traditional Gothic Cathedral. And yet the slots in these spires lighten the structure, reduces wind loads and ventilates the confines of staircases, while evoking the notion of “inhabited sculpture” by affording glimpses of people ascending the spiral stairs: a truly ingenious integration of engineering and aesthetics. When you feel that something looks eccentric not just to be different but because it integrates so flawlessly with other elements (whatever they may be), and when you are no longer bewildered but instead completely captured by it, that is when bizarre is elevated to sublime.
But not all strange (even if beautiful on surface) things succeeds in making such transcendence. Unlike Sagrada Familia that use hollow towers to transform its bizarre facade into an immense acoustic organ, the eccentric shells of Sydney Opera House are there for looks and not much more. I would say the view of Sydney Opera House with harbour is sublime, but the experience of the building itself as a whole is quite shallow and unsatisfying.
There are some anime that gets a lot of flak for looking eccentric just to be different. Some might say Mind Game is one of them and I too think it occasionally isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing (especially when they started experimenting with stock photos at the beginning). Then there are moments that are so bizarre, yet so beautiful and expressive, it could not be described as anything other than sublime.